Chris Bowers
2 minute read
13 Nov 2018
7:07 pm

Rampant Anderson can almost taste ATP Finals playoffs

Chris Bowers

Despite his fine showing, he was undoubtedly helped by opponent Kei Nishikori's poor display.

South Africa's Kevin Anderson returns against Japan's Kei Nishikori during their men's singles round-robin match on day three of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 13, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Kevin Anderson has all but assured himself of a place in Saturday’s knockout stage of the Nitto ATP Finals with an emphatic 6-0 6-1 win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

While Anderson served with phenomenal consistency and kept his focus despite his commanding position, the gulf in the score was more down to Nishikori looking a shadow of the player who beat Roger Federer in straight sets on Sunday night.

On the second point of the match, Nishikori framed an innocuous forehand, the ball flying into the crowd.

Though no-one could know it at the time, it was a signal that his game was just off-colour, and Anderson was consistent enough to take full advantage.

Time after time, seemingly even rallies ended with an error out of nowhere from Nishikori.

While he matched Anderson for winners, his unforced error count was 24 to Anderson’s 12, and Nishikori landed just 45 per cent of his first serves while Anderson made 78%, including 10 aces.

Those statistics should take nothing away from an impressive performance from the tall South African, but deep down he will know that even an out-of-sorts display would probably have beaten Nishikori in this form.

Anderson raced through the first set in barely half an hour.

He broke in the second game as Nishikori failed to find his line and length, though Anderson gave away two break chances thanks to overexuberance on a couple of short balls.

He broke again for 4-0, and despite the crowd doing its best to get behind the Japanese, Anderson’s consistency was too much for Nishikori, with a third break giving the South African the first set in just 31 minutes thanks largely to 14 unforced errors from Nishikori’s racket.

Nishikori seemed to come out with greater intent in the second set, but a break of his serve in the second game crushed his embryonic momentum.

The exact same pattern happened when Anderson broke in the fourth game of the set, the crowd sighing with disappointment as yet another Nishikori groundstroke missed its target.

The loudest cheer of the 65-minute match came when Nishikori finally won a game, the Japanese holding serve on a delicate cross-court slice at 0-5.

Yet that merely staved off the inevitable, Anderson serving out victory in the following game and shaking hands with an air of embarrassment given the nightmare his opponent had suffered.

The win leaves Anderson still to face Roger Federer on Thursday, a match he might afford to lose and still go through to Saturday’s semi-finals.

Even if Federer does win, the only way Anderson could finish outside the two qualifying spots would be on a countback of sets and games won, and having won his first two matches in straight sets, it would be a shock if he were not in Saturday’s line-up.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.